Though most of us haven’t thought about it in these terms, we know that music affects driving.
The right song on the radio can make a drive more fun. The dull daily commute suddenly turns into a head-bopping, drumming-on-the-steering-wheel adventure.
But consider what else is going on.
If you’re so focused on the song, what else are you not paying attention to?
That question was just part of a recent study by Warren Brodsky, director of music psychology at Ben-Gurion University. His study has recently been published in his book, Driving with Music: Cognitive-Behavioral Implications.
Music Affects Driving Style
Brodsky asserts that choice of music can have a major influence on a person’s driving behavior. Sometimes it leads to serious or even fatal outcomes.
Brodsky put 28 students — averaging seven years driving experience — into his driving simulations. They drove around a virtual Chicago while listening to a variety of styles of music. Tempos ranged from a slow 60 beats per minute to something twice that.
As the tempo increased, Brodsky found the drivers taking more risks and having more collisions. Subjects listening to faster music were twice as likely to run through red lights and twice as likely to crash their virtual car.
“Both novice and experienced drivers must be more aware of how music influences their driving behavior and vehicle control,” Brodsky’s book contends.
Music can be just one more distraction
While research on distracted driving has so far largely focused on cellphones, texting, conversations, and driving under the influence, this new publication addresses how music affects driving behavior.
And, unfortunately, it’s the songs that we love the most that put us most at risk.
Brodsky’s research shows that when a favorite song is playing, driver concentration decreases the most. We get so into the song that we don’t focus on our driving environment. Drivers may start singing along, moving their body to the music, or even holding an imaginary microphone. All of these behaviors can have damaging effects on driving.
Statistics from the NHTSA estimates that driver inattention is a factor in causing 25 to 30 percent of all crashes in the USA.